7.57 Haggai -- Haggai and Foreigners
The Book of Haggai is a book of just 2 chapters which consist of four short oracles, delivered over a four-month period in the year 520 BC.
a. Oracle 1: Aug. 29
Haggai’s first message (Hag 1:1-11) is also his most famous. Although addressed to the leaders, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest, it seems to have been shared with the entire remnant. Given the power and proximity of non-Jewish peoples, we might expect Haggai to address them. Neighboring nations represented the greatest threat to the believing remnant: they intimidated the Jews, they sought to influence the Persian governing powers, and (through intermarriage) they compromised Israel’s holiness. Yet Haggai placed the blame for Jerusalem’s plight squarely on the Jews themselves: their spiritual lethargy, rather than their neighbors’ scheming, was responsible for their lack of prosperity.
"You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the Lord Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house" (Hag 1:9).
Haggai’s message was that, by surrendering to circumstances, they had broken their covenant with the Lord. His Law called them to put Him first (Ex 20:2-3) and to love Him above all (Deut 6:5). Haggai's explanation: the returning Jews had not prospered because the Lord Almighty Himself "blew away" their increase, called forth drought, and struck the work of their hands. Haggai doesn't mention the Gentiles at all in this message.
His words had an immediate effect. The "whole remnant" responded (Hag 1:12-14); the Lord "stirred up" their spirit (Hag 1:14), even as 17 or 18 years earlier, He had stirred them to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:5; NIV Study Bible p. 1402). This is one of the most striking positive outcomes in all of Old Testament prophecy.
As the remnant resumed work on the Temple, the Lord gave them a brief further word through Haggai: "I am with you" (Hag 1:13). This encouragement meant that the period of futility was past, and that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were again the people of the Lord.
The period of the Second Temple is sometimes frowned upon as a time of legalism and ritual ( The Prophets: Who They Were, What They Are, Podhoretz, Norman, NY: Free Press, Simon & Schuster, 2002, p. 293), but here, at its inception, we have a prophet going back to the heart of the Law. The people put first things first, and took a step of faith, and the Lord drew near.